Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pull Ups for Strength or Endurance

Recently saw this simply put article on written by Kathryn Walsh and thought I would pass it along.? Simple words, simple message.

Girl doing kipping pull ups

Pull-ups are one of the most satisfying exercises you can do. Being able to lift your entire body weight using only your arms is a sign that you’re strong and fit, and the challenge of the workout means you’ll see major results in your body if you’re dedicated to your routine. If done properly and carefully, pull-ups can help you build both strength and endurance.

The main goal and benefit of doing pull-ups is to help you get stronger. Each time you pull yourself up, the muscles in your arms, shoulders and back develop strains and slight tears. Other cells repair each tiny tear and make the muscle slightly larger. The more weight you lift — in this case, the weight of your body — and the more repetitions you do, the larger your muscles become. Larger muscles make you stronger and help you improve your endurance, though pull-ups alone won’t drastically change your endurance levels.

If you don’t have experience with pull-ups, make an appointment with a trainer at your gym so you can learn proper technique. According to the American Council on Exercise, you should tightly grip the handle of the chin-up bar with your palms facing away from you and your thumbs wrapped around the bar. As you lift yourself off the ground, bend your knees slightly and cross your ankles. Keeping your shoulders down and your head
straight, bend your elbows as you pull your body up until your chin is even with the bar. Hold the position for a few seconds and slowly lower yourself until your arms are straight again.

Getting hurt doing pull-ups will set your workout routine back weeks or months. The first thing to consider when doing pull-ups is the bar. You can buy and install a chin-up bar in a doorway in your home, but it’s crucial to follow the instructions carefully. Choose a model that needs to be bracketed into the wall to ensure sturdiness. Exercising with cold muscles
can leave you with strained muscles, so spend a few minutes stretching your arms, shoulders and back before doing pull-ups. Don’t do pull-ups if you have any upper-body injuries because the strain of the exercise can worsen a previous trauma.

Strength training is only one component of building your endurance. If this is your goal, you’ll need to do cardiovascular exercises as well. At least a few times a week, perform activities that keep your heart rate elevated for 30 minutes or more, such as running and swimming. Pace yourself. Running full-speed will tire you out quickly, but jogging at a comfortable pace allows you to go longer. Make your workout a bit longer each time, even if it’s only by one or two minutes.

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Commando Grip Pull Ups

Keep your hands moving!

Commando Pull Up Demonstration Commando Pull Up Demo on FREE-Bar

Recently, we were talking with some guys about “loading” the arsenal with more pull-up options to incorporate into your daily workouts. By varying the pull up, you will hit different muscles each time. Wide Grip, Close Grip, Off-Set and one of our personal favorites, the COMMANDO are now staples in the pull up diet.

The Commando pull-up is an alternative to the strict overhand pull up or underhand chin up. With focus now on the chest in addition to the arms and lats, Commandos are harder than regular strict pull ups and definitely forces you to engage muscles in ways that they are not usually worked.

The grip is important to perform the Commando correctly. Stand sideways directly under the bar (not facing the bar, but looking down along the bar) and place your hands one in front of the other. When you jump up and grab the bar this way, your palms should be facing each other. Pull up and lower yourself down. Pull yourself up and slightly to the side of the bar without banging your head) to the side of the hand that’s forward and on the next set, switch hands, and pull to that side.

You can do variations of the Commando on all types of bars and just about anything you can jump up on and hang from. For extra fun and challenge, do Commandos on a thick bar!

It really is that easy. By varying grips and pushing yourself to mix things up a bit, the benefits appear to go beyond a simple cure for boredom and monotony in the work out. So keep those hands moving………Commando style in this case!

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Extra Pounds, Extra Effort

Guy doing pull ups on a Steelfit bar Pull Ups with extra effort

My workouts have been consistent and remain fairly vigorous; in fact, I have been working pretty hard as of late.

However, one must always remember that exercise is only half the battle. Balancing a clean diet with time in the gym, pool and elsewhere is the real key. I can’t say that my diet choices have been horrible……..but have definitely fallen a little weak when it comes to late night snacking and some indulgences that should? invoke a quick NO THANK YOU. The result; a softer middle than I would like and about 5-8 extra pounds.

So, what’s the big deal right? Most people wouldn’t notice the extra baggage, but the sure fire test came for me this past week on the pull up bar.

We can all remember facing the pull-up bar at some point in our training evolution. I have often chronicled how much fun it is to see improvement in strength gains over time with hard work, variety and some sweat. After all, pull ups are the ultimate test of upper body strength as you lift and lower your entire body weight. Success takes consistent practice and requires that you never stray too far from the bar.

Now, add 6-8 pounds of weight (or more) to the equation and things start to change. The more you weigh, the more you have to lift. If you suddenly add extra girth due to a slump and some bad choices, athletic performance is going to suffer. An increase in your Body
Mass Index will likely result in a decrease in pull up performance. While not rocket science for sure, we can sometimes lose sight of the physics involved.

Two less strict hang pull up reps this week than I would have expected woke me up to the softness in my middle and the need to get it corrected right away. Going backwards on anything (and especially pull ups) puts me and many others in a really bad mood.

So the extra pounds are what they are, but the effort to “right” the situation is a choice, just like the one’s that resulted in the situation to begin with. Extra Pounds….Extra Effort; making the right choices?is key.?Keep on pulling.

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Kipping Pull Ups……Cheating or Honest Hard Work

Always a?bit surprised at the ongoing and spirited nature of the debate over kipping vs. regular pull ups. The crux of the conversation seems to be centered around which one is better than the other?

I had to think twice before electing to add?our view on the topic. After all, there are serious critics and strong advocates who have taken sides one way or the other. Critics say kipping is cheating and still others advance that the stress placed on the muscles can have real negative side effects. I don’t pretend to be a fitness expert, just an active participant. My views are a result of personal experience and after a little thought decided to jump right in anyway.The kipping pull up involves a hip snap generating momentum that moves up the spine and into the arms. This lets you lift your body over the bar with less direct pulling. The result is a lot more pull ups. The strict pull up by comparison requires that the body stays rigid and only the joints needed toperform the movement come into play. Dead hang pull ups isolate muscles in the back and and arms while kipping pull ups are a full body exercise. While easier on the direct pulling muscles, they are much harder on the grip and are inarguably more cardiovascular.Ok, so why the debate over which one is better? I don’t recall any rules posted on the gym wall that says I must do a pull up one way or the other. The idea that doing one variety instead of the other is cheating simply makes no sense to me. Intention and desired benefit seems to be the only appropriate qualifiers here. During my regular work outs, there are days when I’ll do weighted heavy pull ups and others where L- pull ups create the challenge for the day. If I kip while performing these exercises, I suppose I would be cheating myself of the intended advantages. Conversely, if the?workout calls for high volume kipping pull ups and I choose to perform the regular variety instead, I will miss out on the full benefit of the total body, high intensity workout that was programmed.I have been working out with a buddy now for years. Because we are evenly matched in so many ways, our workouts tend to be intense and a little competitive; a perfect situation. He trusts me to program our workouts and I feel bad about selecting a?workout that has high volume pull up work since he doesn’t have a consistent kiping pull up. As I write these comments, the soreness in my lats and shoulders from doing the “Murph”?two days ago can’t be denied. I of course, tackled the 100 pull up reps by kipping. My friend completed the work with regular pull up attempts, slowly shifting more toward kipping as the set progressed since maintaining strict form becomes really hard. Did either one of us cheat?We both worked really hard……. Obviously, I was able to finish the pull ups quicker, but he made up all of the time on the squats. He has a definite edge on me when it comes to lower body strength and he pushed himself that much harder to ensure we were both heading out the door for the last mile run together.In my view, pull ups are king, no matter what version you practice. The desired benefits vary and doing just one variety exclusively is the only real “cheating” that should enter this conversation.As for honest hard work; you bet…. my friend made this point for me perfectly clear!

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Pull Ups – The Perfect Exercise

Reflecting on our pull up journey over the last several years, education alone has been eye opening for sure. While?we thought?we knew something about pull ups before, what we really garnered was how much more there was to learn.

Human physiology, muscle impact, variants, technique, history and so much more has
entered into?the STEELFIT?pull up vocabulary, we are feeling a bit overwhelmed and “validated” at the same time. Before you say that?we are getting carried away, let?us assure you that?we remain grounded…………..but even more passionate now if that’s possible.

Bottom line, pull ups are incredibly simple (not easy though) yet complex and powerful at the same time. They are the purist and most natural way to strengthen and build muscles in your back; we all want lats that resemble wings, no? But, pull ups will also sneak up
and surprise you with their profound impact on your arms (biceps and forearms),and total core. I can promise you that this guy hasn’t done an arm curl in months and months,?yet biceps are more pumped than ever. As we have said numerous times before, the pull up is the king of all back exercises in our?view, providing benefits to every color muscle on the image?included along with this post.

It is perfectly clear that we are more of a STUDENT of the exercise today than than ever before and this “Pursuit” (of the?perfect pull up)?we initiated years back, ?just keeps getting
better and better. There is so much more to explore and learn!


Pull Up Perfection

“In Pursuit of the Perfect Pull Up” is the stated mission of Steelfit. With that said,?we thought it would only be fair if we further defined the ground rules for the search. Would it ultimately lead to a pull up demonstrated with absolute perfect form? Would it lead us to the perfect pull up bar upon which to perform the exercise? If I asked for a definition from ten different people, would I get a consistent answer???It didn’t take?
Practicing the Perfect Pull Up on a Steelfit bar Pursing the Perfect Pull Up

long to realize that the answer would differ each time I asked the question and to whom I was speaking. It was also clear that this was not going to be as easy as I first thought.For me,?several years ago, the perfect pull up was giving up the machine assisted variety and getting my chin over the bar on my own for the first time. For competitive athletes and?CrossFit friends, the perfect pull up might be achieving success in a high volume workout of chest to bar pull ups on a thick bar. For others, its learning to do kipping pull ups and turning out 30 repetitions as fast as lightening with no rest. Still for others, it might be something altogether different. Clearly, my personal answer today would differ from?10 years ago and so likely would your response.

The Exercise Itself: Often overlooked for its awesome ability to build back, upper body and core strength, the pull up is really key for anyone serious about building strength. It’s as pure as you can get and all you need is a pull up bar, your body and the will.??

As simple as they may seem, pull ups can be very intimidating for someone who doesn’t have one yet though; it wasn’t too long ago that I was right there. I recall when I was struggling to get 1 strict pull up and could only imagine the day when I could blast out 10 or more. What I learned quickly however, was the absolute best way to do more pull ups was to do more pull ups. Like anything you want bad enough (and particularly for me), practice, practice, practice and eventually it clicks.To learn and improve, I personally included pull up attempts into my workouts regularly with the aim at building strength and improving performance. There is a ton of material out there about how to train for pull up performance
and in addition to just doing more pull ups, there were several other things I practiced to eventually get better:1) Do more pull ups – repetitions improve performance2) Doing negatives – starting at the “up” position, slowly lower yourself down2) Assisted pull ups on a machine – resistance settings vary3) Assisted pull ups with bands – attach bands to a puu up bar and place feet or knees in bands and pull5) Lat pull downs – Machine exercise that closely resembles the pull up motion1) Do more pull ups – practice, practice and practice some more2) Add weight; use a weighted vest or hang plates from a weight belt or hold dumbbells between your feet or thighs3) Rope Climbs – a variety of rope climb variations all support upper body and back strength4) Thick Bar Pull Ups – incredible for forearm and grip strength5) Kipping – allows for increased “work” and achieving high repetitions6) Vary hand grips for additional challengeSo the case can be made that the pull up is an awesome exercise and clearly there are things you can do when you are building the skill initially and even more you can practice to improve advanced performance.So what exactly IS the perfect pull up?Well, the answer is a personal one for all of us to consider and starts back at our first pull up attempted and continues with each new milestone achieved. It’s for this reason that the journey searching for perfection will be so much fun to chronicle.It’s also for this reason that I have concluded that there are no ground rules in this pursuit!!

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Pull Up Bars for Comfort or for Challenge

On the topic of pull up bar thickness, it’s been fun searching other blogs and chat boards to “hear” what others have said, especially for those who have attempted to build their own. That trip to the hardware store, “hook up” with a local steel shop or conversation with a neighborhood plumber always seems to result in some confusion…before finding success ultimately. First of all, like all industries I suppose, steel guys have their own language; standard pipe vs. mechanical pipe, hot rolled rounds vs. piping, tubes, flats, channels, etc. If you want to put your hands around a 1 ?” bar, it’s a 1 inch pipe, 1” inch around your hands is a 3/4” pipe; go figure. Sizes vary depending on the actual material and the weight and thickness of the actual metal all varies too. Luckily, that’s why there are steel guys out there to worry this stuff so we don’t have to.Putting all that aside, it would appear that there is general agreement that the thickness of choice for a standard pull up bar is just about 1 ?” thick when measuring the outside diameter. This provides for a comfortable grip for
the majority of athletes and satisfies the training needs of most in common situations. A trainer friend of mine jumped up on a new bar system just after we installed them and she said “ah, these are just perfect” a reference to comfort I suppose.For additional challenge however, one might opt for thicker bars. There is no question that thick bar pull up work will do wonders for your grip and forearm strength. Even thicker bars yet, may not be practical for everyday work outs, but they too have their place and strength benefits. We have made?and have installed some ultra thick bars from 2 1/2″ to 3 1/2″ thick diameter or more?for some guys looking for a sick test of grip strength.? Depending on the thickness, this is NOT an easy pull up!Often, we simply adapt to what we have available to us. Or, if you are like me, you find yourself pulling yourself up on just about anything that you come across that looks like it will hold. I had to contain myself on a recent weekend trip to New York City heading downtown on the E train holding on to the overhead grab bars; they were just about 1 ?” in diameter in my estimation, they were definitely comfortable….and clipping along at 50+ miles an hour on a crowded subway train would have been quite the challenge.

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